Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson spoke Tuesday about how he’s trying to build personal relationships between cops and citizens wary of them — starting with himself.
In a speech to the City Club of Chicago, Johnson said he met with a woman whose son was killed by an officer in 2013. The woman, her brother and Johnson watched a video of the shooting.
“There was no finger-pointing or blame, there were simply three people watching the same video hoping for some resolution and realizing that there are no clear or easy answers to our problems,” he said.
On Mother’s Day, he quietly visited the moms of two murder victims to show them the department cares about their losses, a spokesman said.
“People want to be heard. They want their pain validated and recognized and they want respect,” he said.
Johnson said community policing is a major element of his strategy to build trust with citizens — and persuade them to cooperate with cops and help solve crimes. As an example, he said he plans to expand a program in which police recruits have met with inner-city teens in “peace circles” at Marshall High School to learn more about how each other thinks.
“You have different cultures clashing with each other,” Johnson said.
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He and other veteran officers will eventually participate in peace circles, too, he said.
Johnson acknowledged the public’s trust of officers was severely damaged with the November release of a video of a police officer fatally shooting a knife-wielding teen 16 times in 2014. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, has been charged with murder in Laquan McDonald’s death.
Johnson was asked about murders in 2016 far outpacing the same period of 2015 in Chicago. After a spike in killings and shootings at the start of the year, there’s been a “steady down trend” in violence and officers have started picking up their activity on the street, including gun recoveries, he said.
As for the six people killed and dozens wounded in gunfire over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, Johnson said 80 percent of those shot were already on a police list of people at risk of becoming gun victims or gun offenders. All of the suspects identified as shooters over the weekend were on the same list, Johnson said, reiterating the department’s call for tougher gun laws to keep repeat offenders in prison.